Mike Diva will be spinning ‘90s music at Playboy’s Hidden Arcade: ‘90s Edition party on Saturday, September 23, but he’s better known for his weird internet videos. Diva’s latest project is that bizarre new Halo Top commercial in which a robot urges an old woman to eat ice cream.
You’re a pretty big deal on YouTube. How did that come about? Did a particular video really blow up, or has it been more gradual?
It’s kind of all over the place. I release videos so sporadically that it’s been difficult to maintain a solid fanbase, but I’ve had a lot of YouTube success through individual videos. I guess the first one that I did that really blew up was a video called Sexy Sax Man. That was six or seven years ago. It was literally just me and my friend running around with a saxophone playing “Careless Whisper” for people in public.
Your new Halo Top commercial is pretty crazy. How did that come together?
I’ve done commercials in the past, but I feel like I’m finally getting to a point where people are trusting me to do stuff that’s crazy enough to get attention. Usually when I come up with a crazy idea, nine times out of ten, it’ll get shot down, or it’ll get made and not released, or it’ll get made and they have so many notes that it becomes neutered and toothless, and it doesn’t do well because it doesn’t have an edge. I still can’t believe myself that they let me do this one. When it actually went through, I was kind of blown away by it, but also super excited, because it’s one of the first things I’ve done commercial-wise that came out exactly how I wanted it to from concept to completion. It also doesn’t hurt that the CEO of Halo Top, Justin, is a fan of my work, so he asked for me specifically. It was a blast working with them. They literally let me do whatever I wanted to do.
Another interesting thing about that commercial is that I got to write music with my brother, who’s a musician. He’s a producer who worked on the most recent Weezer song and stuff, and we got to write an old-timey jingle for the commercial, which was a really fun challenge, because everything else we’ve done has been trap or pop. Having to dive back into the doo-wop/Chordettes kind of jingles was fun, and I’m pretty happy with how it came out.
Other people seem to rely on you for creative inspiration. What inspires you?
Lately, I get inspiration from constraint. That’s one of the reasons that I like doing commercials, because I’m given this sandbox to play in, where it’s like, “Here is the product. You have to make this look cool and interesting and grab people’s attention without going too off the wall.” For instance, with my Donald Trump video. It was a lot more fun and cute back when the idea of Donald Trump becoming president was hilarious. Back then, a lot of people were making Donald Trump parody videos bashing him and making fun of him. He’s such an easy target that I wanted to make something that was overwhelmingly positive for Donald Trump, because to me that’s hilarious. It’s less funny now, because a lot of people do feel overwhelmingly positive about Donald Trump, which is insane and scary. With Halo Top, I liked the challenge of coming up with an ice cream commercial that is weird enough to grab people’s attention, but not completely scare them away—and getting away with it.
Can you talk a bit about your music background?
I started out making music, and was in a few electropunk bands. You know how the music industry is—it’s pretty much impossible to make a dent in it, so I started focusing on directing instead, and that’s been going a lot better. Last year, I had a pretty big internet hit with this remix I did of this kazoo kid video. It’s got somewhere around 40 million views, which is pretty crazy, because I just made it in a weekend. I mainly focus on trap, future bass kind of stuff. At Hidden Arcade, I’ll be DJing ‘90s mashups that bring modern elements into ‘90s music.
Do you do a lot of DJing, or is Playboy’s Hidden Arcade event a rare opportunity to see you in action?
I don’t DJ that much, because it’s something that I mostly do just for fun. The last gig I played was a big party at VidCon, the YouTube convention. It’s a blast every time I do it.
You were just a kid in the 90s, right? What 90s artists do you think had the biggest impact on who you are today?
Probably the Beastie Boys. I was obsessed with the Beastie Boys—that was my jam. And the Eiffel 65 album with the song “Blue” on it. I think that my favorite ‘90s song, though, has got to be “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal.
Did you play a lot of video games growing up?
Surprisingly no. My parents never let me have a game system. They thought it would distract me from school. At the time I resented them, but it kind of forced me to make my own entertainment, and that’s how I got into filmmaking and music and stuff.
Do you have a favorite retro game?
Do you usually listen to music while you’re playing video games?
Nowadays, when I play fighting games, I always put my own music on, but I think for the most part, you should listen to the music that the game intended you to listen to.
Do you keep the game sound on, too?
Yeah, that’s important.
Aside from DJing at Hidden Arcade, what’s coming up for you?
I’m doing these crazy, hopefully viral ads—hopefully viral is the keyword there—for the L.A. Metro that are going to be really insane. They’re having me do three PSAs that are all just completely my style, just totally batshit, and I’m really excited for those, so be on the lookout for that.
Playboy’s Hidden Arcade: 90s Edition is Saturday, September 23, at 9 p.m. Get tickets and get nostalgic.